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Ghost Riders in the sky (An Ever-Lovin’ October Preview) – Marvel Two-In-One #80

September 29, 2011

I know it’s not October yet, but I’m just too goddamn excited. I can’t wait. I need to get going on this.

A Marvel Two-In-One month. The Thing. One of the most consistently entertaining reads that Marvel ever churned out, sprinkled over my favorite month of the year. Like chocolate and peanut butter. C’est magnifique.

Two-In-One was never a title that soared to great literary heights, but the Thing, one of the truly great everyman characters in comics, made it special. The focus on the rocky monster with an encrusted heart of gold and the pairings with leading and lesser lights of the company’s pantheon turned the book into something that’s fun to revisit anytime, anywhere. Ben Grimm was and is a hero equally at home wagging his fist in front of Galactus and downing some suds at a Yancy Street watering hole. He’s great, and he usually elevates any book that features him. No exception here.

I’ll be picking out some random stories from Two-In-One‘s hundred issues-plus-annuals run over the next four weeks, and I hope others can share in the love. And perhaps a few others can catch the wave.

Why not start with blue-eyed Ben battling that literal hot-head, the sometimes hero, sometimes menace known as Ghost Rider? It’s a pairing forged in heaven. Or hell, as it were.

The story (Tom DeFalco, Ron Wilson, Chic Stone) ramps up when Ben’s training gets a little out of hand and rattles the Baxter Building so badly some of girlfriend Alicia Masters’ endless superhero sculptures are broken (what a great blow to the culture). When she goes to find out what the ruckus is and is almost killed by one of his workout devices, the Thing enters into one of his epic “I’m a monster!”  mopes — it sometimes seems that poor Alicia is more trouble than she’s worth. He laments his always dangerous strength by shattering some condemned structure and flying off on his nifty sled:

Really, how can anybody be depressed when they have a personal rocket-bike?

Meanwhile, Ghost Rider is on a flaming rampage:

I never liked the overly wordy GR, but okay. Whatever floats your boat.

When he finally cools down and settles back into poor Johnny Blaze, the Thing shows up to give him a lift:

At this point, I think the Thing’s face is less cracked and craggly than Robert Redford’s sun-ravaged mug. So Ben has that going for him.

A grateful Blaze gives the Thing a couple of tickets to his upcoming stunt spectacular. Benny-boy sees this as a golden opportunity to make amends to Alicia for upending all of her hard work, even if she can’t see a damn bit of the show. I guess the tractor-pull was sold out. Proving that there’s always some sort of problem that has to be dealt with, Ben has to eject a seat-squatting Mr. Clean when they arrive:

Once that unpleasantness is taken care of, Ben’s treated to watching (and attempting to describe to his date) the antics of death-defying Mr. Blaze, which appear to defy the laws of every science known to man, Kree, Skrull, or whatever:

It’s the motorcycle equivalent of Queen Elizabeth II’s Naked Gun pitch.

When Blaze lands he wipes out due to some teens swerving around in a stolen hot-rod. I think you know where this is going:

Unholy vengeance commences, but the Thing steps in to bail the kids out of hot water:

They then engage in super-powered fisticuffs, with a verbose Ghost Rider mouthing off like a vexed Doctor Doom. The Thing has himself a moment of clarity as he wails away:

Instead of getting beaten to death with a STOP sign, the newly non-violent Thing uses his dulcet tones to calm the vengeance-seeking demon. Mission accomplished:

Ben holds a spent Blaze in his arms and they beat cheeks out of there before the fuzz arrive. We’re left with a happy/depressing ending when our hero and his lady reunite:

Cue the Incredible Hulk “Lonely Man” music. At least Ghost Rider has his own hellish wheels and doesn’t have to thumb rides.

This one hits all the classic Ben Grimm bases. Lamentation of fate. Self-effacing humor. Scaring a bully. An “it ain’t so bad, in fact, it’s pretty damn good” denouement. It’s a winning formula, one that should make this October a good one. Until next time, true believers.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    September 29, 2011 7:21 pm

    That motorcycle jump really pissed me off when I about thirteen or fourteen years old.

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